If you’re interested in branching out on drought-resistant trees you could add to your yard, a cypress would be a good choice. Cypresses are extremely drought-resistant—good for Oregon’s increasingly long and hot summers—and there is even a species that is native to the Pacific Northwest: the Baker cypress, also known as the Modoc cypress.
Here are our top five tips on helping your cypress trees grow strong and healthy in the Pacific Northwest.
1. First, How Can You Identify a Cypress Tree?
The cypress is an evergreen tree, so it will keep your yard looking fresh all year long. It can be classified either as a tree or a shrub, depending on its height. A cypress tree will grow well in USDA Zones 5 through 10. A Baker cypress will grow very slowly but eventually get to be as tall as 50 feet with a diameter of about 35 feet. As a conifer, it will have flat, pointed, scaly leaves instead of needles and will remain gray-green in color all year. There are other colors within the cypress family, which can range from bluish-green (such as the Tecate cypress), to dark green (as with the Gowen cypress), and the lighter shade you find in the MacNab cypress.
Cypresses smell lovely too—generally aromatic and slightly spicy. However, be warned that the Arizona cypress is one exception. This species of cypress has a reputation for smelling downright skunky. As you get used to it (or if you crush some of the leaves in your fingers), it will gather tones more similar to citrus and spice, but getting a face full of skunk smell might be off-putting to you or any guests you might have visiting.
2. What Are the Cypress’s Water Needs?
What does drought-resistant mean? How much should you water a cypress tree—or does it need to be watered at all? This is a great subject to be aware of when you’re planning a space for your cypress tree. Generally speaking, cypresses like full sun for about six hours a day, and you may only need to water it during dry spells once the tree is established.
Until the tree is fully established, make sure you give it enough water but not so much that the roots are constantly wet. For most species, this means watering it with about one five-gallon bucket per week. But be sure to experiment and check in on it when you are establishing your tree.
Whatever kind of cypress you decide on, make sure the soil is well-drained, though cypresses can survive in almost any type of soil, whether it’s clay or sand. If your cypress is in a pot, make sure that it drains correctly as well. Otherwise, you may find your cypress will get root rot.
3. Are Cypresses Susceptible to Any Conditions or Pests?
Nope! This is one reason why cypresses are so popular as hedges for windscreens and sound screens and as ornamental additions to yards. There are no reported pests that enjoy chewing on a cypress in particular, though you should still inspect them with the same regularity you do your other trees, just to be safe.
If your cypress’s branches become flattened or bowed due to weather, wind, or too much watering, you can easily wrap up those drooping branches with twine or fishing line for aesthetics. Of course, if a branch breaks, it’s best to prune it, but if the branch merely needs redirection, twine is a great solution.
4. What Annual Maintenance Will a Cypress Need?
While you don’t need to do any regular pruning, a cypress will appreciate fertilizer in the spring, just as it’s waking up from its winter rest. If you’ve already fertilized your lawn, you may not need to do this. If you already fertilized near the cypress, you could give it a little compost in the fall and call it good.
However, if you haven’t fertilized and don’t plan to and you want to give your tree an extra hit in the spring, just know that a little bit goes a long way. For even a full-sized cypress, you may only need two tablespoons of an all-purpose, slow-release fertilizer. Sprinkle it on the ground around the tree in a band at least six inches away from the trunk.
5. Do I Need to Prune My Cypress?
Depending on what you want, you may not need to do any pruning. However, you can inspect your tree and do a little pruning in the late winter when your tree is dormant. If your tree needs some shaping, or if you want to keep it from growing a certain way, it won’t take much to give it the look you want. Of course, make sure to trim dead limbs out if you find them. Cut the branch back to the main stem of the tree, but not quite flush with the trunk.
For training-type pruning, trim the tips of the branches. Make sure your cuts are at an angle so that moisture doesn’t build up on the tips of these cuts. Don’t take off more than one-third of the length of any branch. You can also keep your cypress from growing taller, on the understanding that the tree may try to grow out wider in response. If you want a shape like this, you will need to prune it every year.
Also, if the greenery is turning brown in the center of the tree, this means the middle of the tree isn’t getting enough sunlight. This is easily solved. Just prune the outer branches away all around the tree so there is more light getting in.
If you have questions about specific trees—cypress or otherwise—Mr. Tree Service will jump at the opportunity to help. We value every type of tree and look forward to caring for yours, whether it’s maintenance such as pruning or an inspection or it’s mitigating damage or disease, the friendly professionals at Mr. Tree Service are here for you. Contact us today.